Congressman contacts secretary of Air Force over downsizing - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Congressman contacts secretary of Air Force over downsizing

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Congressman Richard E. Neal met with U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James about cutbacks announced Monday at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee.

Commander of the 439th Air Wing, Brig. Gen. Steven Vautrain announced the base would be losing eight of their 16 C-5 aircraft and more than 330 positions. The planes will be refitted and upgraded to the C-5M, which he said requires less maintenance than current models. He said they would still be required to fulfill the same amount of missions with half the aircraft.

Tuesday, Neal met with James to discuss the future of the base. Neal said he invited James to meet with the entire Massachusetts Congressional Delegation so they could share their thoughts.

Vautrain indicated the Air Force budget cut was due to the winding down of two wars, sequestration and the Budget Control Act requiring a $487 billion cut in the defense budget over the next eight years. He said the cuts would begin in October of 2015 and come in phases.

Neal said he didn't believe the cuts were set in stone and was looking for other options. He noted military bases across the country were facing the same cuts. Neal noted the process still has to go through Congress.

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